I had the privilege of stepping back in time at the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca, Santo Domingo, an experience that left me in awe of the rich Zapotec and Mixtec cultures. The museum, housed in the stunning 16th-century Santo Domingo de Guzmán complex, is a treasure trove of history, art, and archaeology.
Tomb Seven at Monte Albán was discovered by the Mexican archaeologist Alfonso Caso on January 9, 1932. The finding is significant because it is one of the richest burial sites ever found in the Americas, which has provided a wealth of information about the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures that inhabited the Oaxaca region.
The tomb contained an extraordinary collection of precious items, including gold, silver, pearls, jade, obsidian, rock crystal, and intricately carved bone.
This burial site, dating from the Late Postclassic period (1250-1521 AD), offered a rare peek into the afterlife beliefs and the splendor of ancient societies.
The Tomb Seven exhibit, with its sacred artifacts like the turquoise-encrusted skull and the gold mask of Xipe Totec, was particularly enthralling.
Another captivating aspect was the display of the ‘Caracol trompeta’, a seashell turned musical instrument. In many Mesoamerican cultures, shells were associated with the underworld and the sea, both considered sources of life and fertility. The sound produced by the shell trumpet was possibly seen as a means to communicate with the deities or the spirits of ancestors.
I was struck by the artistry of the Mixtec culture, as evidenced by the finely engraved bones, which narrated myths and histories integral to their identity.
The museum’s narrative was a testament to the advanced Mixtec civilization and their artisanship, as seen in the intricate codex-style bone engravings. These pieces, more than simple artifacts, were storied objects, each line etched with the profound cosmology of the people.